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The Chicago Teacher’s Union is at it again. The group’s radical president Karen Lewis, known for leading the teachers in their first strike in a generation, fancies herself as a warrior for union rights rather than a protector of education. Her latest battle cry? Class warfare.
Speaking to the Illinois Labor History Society’s “Salute to Labor’s Historic Heroes from the History Makers of Today,” Lewis compared current working conditions to those under the robber barons of old, saying “They think nothing of putting our people in harm’s way. They think nothing of lethal working conditions.” An example of these conditions? Working without air conditioning. She did grant one concession, however, saying that she does not believe current employers are “ready to kill.”
One wonders what horrible travesties teachers must endure to inspire such rhetoric. They have an average income of around $70,000, benefits, pensions, limited work days, and summers free. Meanwhile, Lewis refuses to disclose her own salary. Perhaps she’s worried about ruining her street cred. After all, she can hardly be an effective agitator if it turns out she is one of the people she claims to be against.
You may notice the conspicuous absence of one subject in her speech- anything to do with Chicago’s children. It’s not as though the school system is running so well that it doesn’t require all hands on deck. Former Secretary of Education William J. Bennet said “I’m not sure there is a system as bad as the Chicago system.” He noted that half of Chicago’s public high schools scored in the bottom 1% of schools on the ACT. Nearly 80% of eighth graders are proficient in neither reading nor math. These schools have a dropout rate of 40%. Perhaps this is why nearly 40% of Chicago teachers send their children to private schools. As Bennet said, “The people who know the product best send their children elsewhere.''
If these teachers were truly concerned with social justice, wouldn’t they be doing their jobs, and striving to do them even better? If they're so concerned with class warfare, why not war against the system that is keeping the poorest children in failing schools? Certainly Lewis wants to give even those children more opportunity, right?
The best way to equip children to go on to higher education or gainful employment is to give them a good education. For too many teachers, it certainly appears as if this is second to theatrics and trumped up ideas of class warfare.